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Scurvy is vitamin C deficiency. The condition can cause issues such as anemia, exhaustion, or spontaneous bleeding. Other complications include pain in the limbs, particularly the legs, and swelling throughout the body. Scurvy can lead to ulceration of the gums, and tooth loss. People who do not get enough vitamin C may be in danger of contracting scurvy. Although the condition is uncommon, it can be fatal. Keep reading to learn more facts about scurvy.

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Why Do You Need Vitamin C?

Your body needs vitamin C to make collagen, an essential element in the creation and maintenance of connective tissue. The structure and health of your body, including the construction of blood vessels, depend on connective tissues. A lack of vitamin C will also affect the immune system, absorption of iron, metabolism of cholesterol, and other functions.

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Why Do You Need Vitamin C? (Continued)

Without vitamin C, tissues start to break down. Your body will begin to run out of essential compounds like dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and carnitine, all of which aid in energy production. Vitamin C heals wounds and supports scar tissue repair. It also maintains cartilage, bones, and teeth, and is ideal for the absorption of iron.

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How Can You Get Vitamin C?

Consume foods rich in vitamin C, including oranges, mangos, grapefruit, and kiwi. These options are great for breakfast. For a light lunch, you might have a side of crudité. Raw broccoli and red peppers are very high in this powerful antioxidant. You can also consume more fermented vegetables. One serving of kimchi provides half the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Sauerkraut is another good choice. Eat your fruits and veggies raw whenever you can. Cooking vegetables degrades some of the food's vital nutrients, including vitamin C.

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What Are the Symptoms of Scurvy?

You may notice symptoms of vitamin C deficiency within 8 to 12 weeks. Early signs include a loss of appetite, weight loss, irritability, fatigue, and lethargy. Usually, within 1 to 3 months, there are signs of anemia, body aches and pain, and swelling. Small, red spots from bleeding under the skin and corkscrew hairs may appear. Gum disease and loss of teeth can occur, as well as slow or poor wound healing, shortness of breath, mood changes, and depression. Eventually, people with scurvy show signs of severe jaundice and damage to red blood cells or hemolysis. Other symptoms include sudden bleeding, fever, neuropathy, and convulsions. Scurvy can be fatal.

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Can Infants Get Scurvy?

Infants can get scurvy just like adults. A baby with scurvy will be very irritable, restless, and difficult to soothe. You may notice your infant looks paralyzed, lying with the arm and legs stretched halfway out. Infants with scurvy may also develop weak, fragile bones susceptible to fractures or bleeding. Your baby has a higher risk of developing scurvy if the mother was on a restrictive diet prone to malnourishment when pregnant, or if the baby drinks boiled or evaporated milk, has difficulty nursing, or has a disorder related to digestion or nutrient absorption.

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What Are the Risk Factors?

People at higher risk for malnutrition and scurvy include those over the age of 65 and young children or infants. People who regularly consume alcohol, smoke, or use illegal drugs are also more susceptible. Restrictive diets or a lack of access to fresh and nutritious foods can also increase the risk of scurvy, as can neurological conditions, bowel issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or colitis, and other digestive or metabolic disorders. People with weakened immune systems caused by specific conditions or radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also more likely to develop scurvy.

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How is Scurvy Treated?

The symptoms can be severe; however, scurvy is relatively simple to treat. Vitamin C occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. It’s also added to many juices, cereals, and snack foods. If you believe you have a minor case of scurvy, you need to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. This method is the simplest way to reverse the condition. Oral vitamin C supplements are also available, and the vitamin is in most multivitamins, as well. If deficiency indications continue for a few days after you make these diet changes, speak with a doctor. For severe, chronic cases of scurvy, doctors may recommend a high-dose of oral Vitamin C supplements for several weeks to months.

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Can You Recover From Scurvy?

People usually begin to recover from scurvy reasonably fast after starting treatment. You should notice an improvement in some symptoms within a couple of days of treatment, including lessened pain, exhaustion, confusion, headaches, and mood swings.

Other symptoms may take longer to improve following treatment. Symptoms like weakness, bleeding, bruising, and jaundice can take a couple of weeks to correct.

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Is Scurvy Contagious?

Scurvy is a vitamin C deficiency. A deficiency is an insufficient amount of something, which means scurvy is not contagious. It is not an illness like the flu. The leading causes of nutritional deficiencies include poor diet lacking in essential nutrients, or medication that prevents proper absorption. The body can store some nutrients, so the lack may not be caught until you have been without the nutrient for some time. You cannot pass a deficiency to anyone.

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Can You Have Too Much Vitamin C?

Taking large quantities of vitamin C supplements can be harmful. You should never consume more than the suggested dose of a supplement without your doctor’s knowledge and approval. Overdosing on vitamin C can cause problems such as nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and kidney stones. Excess of the vitamin can also decrease the effectiveness of prescription drugs like blood thinners. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you think you have scurvy.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.